YOU CAN SURVIVE (AND THRIVE) ANYWHERE
When I first got off the plane, I was incredibly overwhelmed and anxious. This was the furthest I had ever been from home, and my first time leaving the country alone. The airline lost my luggage. I took the subway the wrong direction on my first day of school. I had no idea what the lady at the railway station meant when she told me to wait in the queue. The city was so big I thought I would never get my bearings. I remember after my first week feeling like I had made a huge mistake. What was I doing here? All I wanted was to talk to someone back home, but I couldn't get the internet to work, and they were all sound asleep whenever I was awake anyway. I honestly wasn't sure if I would last, but then something amazing happened. Each day I woke up and I was a little less anxious. I learned and I grew and I survived. I found my place in this new life. I got so comfortable with the city that I was soon giving directions to lost tourists. When it came time to go back to the sates, I felt like I was leaving home, not going home. Basically, change is always scary, but there will come a time when that change feels normal and you will completely forget that you were even afraid to begin with.
THE WORLD IS A LOT BIGGER (AND SMALLER) THAN YOU THINK
Growing up, many people are never exposed to travel. While some may have the opportunity to see a bit of the world, others may never leave their home town. Because of this, it is easy to become wrapped up in your own world and forget how much more there is out there. But, here is the truth: the world is vast, and it can sometimes feel overwhelmingly so. There are so many places to see and corners to explore that you can never do it all. If you travel somewhere, you will only discover ten more places that you want to go. However, as big as the world is, it is also small in a way. People are just people, wherever you go. No matter where you are in the world, there will always be someone or something you can relate to. You will always find a way to fit in.
HOME WILL ALWAYS BE THERE WHEN YOU GET BACK
It is easy to feel homesick. It is easy to miss people and places. It is easy to look at the things everyone back home is doing and feel like you are missing out. Yes, life goes on without you there, but eventually you will go home, and when you do it will be almost like you never left. Home will always be there, and when you get back you will find yourself homesick for your time abroad.
FEAR AND ANXIETY DON'T HAVE TO STOP YOU
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I faced some extra hurdles while living abroad. In the beginning I let my anxiety and fears keep me from doing things, but I knew that that was no way to live, and definitely no way to live abroad. I had to push myself, and I found that the more I did, the less anxiety I had. Let your fear and anxiety become a propeller, pushing you forward, rather than a weight holding you back. Force yourself to do the things that scare you, and you will find that they begin to scare you less and less. Yes, there may be some moments of weakness, some panic attacks, some hard days, but ultimately, you will come out happier and stronger.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING ALONE
Before moving abroad, I was constantly surrounded by people. My friends and family were always around. I never went to the store, the park, out to eat, anywhere by myself. For a while, I did not know how to handle being completely alone. I felt like something was missing, like I looked strange eating alone, like I wouldn't have as much fun without someone there. But soon, I began to embrace it, to enjoy my own company, to feel comfortable sitting in a restaurant by myself. Yes, going out with people is fun, but going out alone can be just as fun, and more rewarding.
I have done a lot of great things in my life. I have spent the last 22 years packing in as much life as possible. But out of everything I have done, study abroad, travel, and the self growth that comes with it has by far been the most memorable, the most rewarding, and the most life changing. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, moving half way around the world, and exploring as much as possible is the single best thing I have ever done. The most important thing we can do with our time is to explore, and learn, and grow.